Flashback (literary technique)

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In literature and film, a flashback (also called analepsis) takes the narrative back in time from the point the story has reached, to recount events that happened before and give the "back-story." Analepsis allows a narrative's discourse to re-order the story by "flashing back" to an earlier point in the story. In the opposite direction, a flashforward or prolepsis reveals events that will occur in the future.

The classic example of prolepsis is prophecy, as when Oedipus is told that he will sleep with his mother and kill his father. As we learn later in Sophocles' play, he does both despite his efforts to evade his fate. A good example of both analepsis and prolepsis is the first scene of La Jetée. As we learn a few minutes later, what we are seeing in that scene is a flashback to the past, since the present of the film's diegesis is a time directly following World War III. However, as we learn at the very end of the film, that scene also doubles as a prolepsis, since the dying man the boy is seeing is, in fact, himself. In other words, he is proleptically seeing his own death. We thus have an analepsis and prolepsis in the very same scene.

Analepsis was used extensively by author Ford Madox Ford.

See also

es:Flashback gl:Flashback it:Flashback pt:Flashback

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